Spiced Parsnip Soup with the Singing Monks

Miraculously it didn’t rain during the weekend of the Abergavenny Food Festival. This was just as well for the Bloggers Breakfast attendees, as we assembled in the open air on Sunday morning in the Linda Vista Gardens. This was an informal gathering hosted by Kavey who writes the http://www.kaveyeats.com blog. Food Bloggers are a friendly crowd, liking nothing more than to meet and chat about food to other enthusiasts. As food festivals grow in popularity, the Abergavenny Festival is considered one of the friendliest and best by foodie festival enthusiasts. Over a bowl of Rude Health muesli, I also met food blogger Jann, http://eatingwales.com who mentioned her recent recipe for Spiced Parsnip Soup. This bought back an instant memory of the first time I tasted the original Jane Grigson recipe for Curried Parsnip Soup from her excellent Vegetable Book. The book was first published in 1978 and things have changed a lot in the intervening years. The use of the word “curried” to describe a dish is definitely a no-no these days. Describing something as spiced, hints at using a special blend, rather than a generic curry powder, and thus an intriguing depth of flavour. The Grigson recipe uses beef stock which would not be used today for a vegetable soup, and flour which I consider unnecessary. 

However the recipe was rather racy for it’s day and delivered on flavour and fun.

It was deemed a suitable dish to serve to a choir of monks who had given a concert in St Woolos Cathedral in Newport. No one had turned the heating on and it was a bitterly cold winter night.  The monks sang, we shivered and then we headed off to the outskirts of Newport for the Curried Parsnip Soup supper. It was probably down to the extreme cold but everyone was in high spirits, and vast quantities of wine were consumed, especially by the monks. I didn’t know what to expect, but the monks were highly entertaining; I remember a lot of hilarity and saucy jokes. After supper, as we stood outside in the midnight air waving goodbye to the monks, it stuck me as all fairly surreal. It turns out to have been an unforgettable evening as the thought of Parsnip Soup, curried or spiced, transports me straight back to that evening.

Here is my updated version which is ideal for the Autumn nights closing in:

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 300ml good quality vegetable stock
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 220C Fan 200 or Gas 7
  2. In a roasting tin combine the oil and spices
  3. Add the chopped onion and parsnips and mix well
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.
  5. Remove from the oven and put into a food processor or liquidiser with half the stock and blitz until smooth.
  6. Add the rest of the stock slowly until you have the consistency you like
  7. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper
  8. Put into a saucepan to reheat if necessary, check for seasoning and serve as it is or with any of the suggestions below.

Serving suggestions

The soup is great as it is with some lovely crusty bread for a family lunch or supper, but if you’d like to tart up the presentation you could add some dry roasted cumin seeds to scatter on the top just before serving. Crispy fried onions are also nice with a dollop of crème fraiche, or a little double cream swirled on top of the soup with some chopped chives or chopped flat parsley also looks good.


If you don’t have an array of different spices in your cupboard, these days you can buy good mixes such as Bart’s Mild Korma Blend. Use two-three teaspoons of this instead of the suggested spices above. Remember to check the sell-by dates of spices regularly as the quality and aromatic qualities diminish over time.

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